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Types of Cannabis and Health Risks

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

With states legalizing across the country, many people are starting to learn that there are multiple varieties of the cannabis plant, sometimes called “marijuana”, and they can be prepared in a variety of ways. The potency of cannabis can vary greatly from one plant to another and from one preparation to another. The route of administration can strongly affect the intensity of marijuana’s effects.

One person’s experience of taking marijuana can be completely different from that of someone else.

Smoking Weed

Often simply called weed or pot, this is the unprocessed form of cannabis.   Weed consists of the dried leaves and buds of the female Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants.  

It has a very pungent and recognizable odor, both in its unburnt state and while being smoked.   This odor is quite unlike kitchen herbs, although weed is sometimes “cut” (mixed) with benign kitchen herbs such as oregano and parsley when sold in the underground market.

Weed is commonly smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes, known as joints. The lumpy texture of weed can be felt through the tobacco rolling paper. This is one of the characteristics that can differentiate a joint from a hand-rolled tobacco cigarette.

Hashish and weed can be mixed with rolling tobacco, which is a soft, moist, sticky tobacco preparation designed for hand-rolling. It may also be mixed with the dry tobacco from deconstructed cigarettes. This mixture is referred to as a “spliff”.  

Weed, hashish, and hashish oil can be smoked in pipes, water pipes, and bongs, or mixed with tobacco and smoked in a chillum. Some young adults have also used e-cigarettes to inhale marijuana through “vaping.”  

Hashish

Hashish, or hash for short, is a preparation of marijuana made from the resin of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The resin is dried into blocks of hashish, producing an oily, solid substance.  

Cannabis resin can be referred to by the names for the specific type of hash, rather than the generic names of hashish or pot. These different names for hashish include black, goldseal black, redseal black, and Morrocan (Rocky for short).

Hashish is often warmed, crumbled, and rolled together with tobacco. It may also be smoked in a pipe, bong, or chillum.

There are several different types of hashish. The colors range from dark brown or almost black, through various shades of brown, to a dirty yellowish color.

The appearance of different types of hashish can vary as well. Some may look dark and shiny (a bit like licorice) and some may be lighter and dull or matte (a bit like a soup stock cube). The texture of hashish also varies from quite dry and hard, like a piece of fudge, to moist and pliable, like modeling clay.

As with weed, hashish has a very distinctive, pungent odor. It is one of the easiest ways of identifying it as a form of marijuana. The appearance of hashish is so varied that novice users are often duped into buying licorice or other cheap, benign substances that look similar.

Hashish oil, or hash oil, is the strongest form of marijuana and is the least common form of the drug.   It is sold in tiny bottles or sealed plastic bags.

Only a small amount is needed to produce the effects of marijuana. Typically, hash oil is smoked in a pipe or painted onto cigarettes or joints.

Learn how to identify the several types of marijuana, a variety of cannabis preparations, risks, and benefits.

10 Ways to Tell Good Weed from Bad Weed

You’ve done your research. You know which strain of marijuana you want to purchase. You’ve found a dispensary in your location. You’ve found the right products to consume cannabis in your preferred method. But how do you know what you’re buying is actually good?

Here are 10 ways to distinguish between good cannabis and bad cannabis.

Color is one of the easiest ways to tell if your marijuana is high quality or not. Good cannabis is green, with flecks of orange or purple. Brown cannabis, however, means its bad and could contain mold, pesticides or other funky stuff.

Another easy way to determine good cannabis versus bad is smell . Marijuana should have a fresh smell that you can detect easily. Bad cannabis will smell like hay or grass. Basically, if it doesn’t smell like cannabis, don’t smoke it.

Taste can be a little harder if you’re not a more experienced marijuana user. Good cannabis should taste fresh. If it tastes off or not fresh, then you should avoid it.

You know those crystals on your marijuana? Those are called trichomes, and they determine how much THC is in marijuana. So if someone tells you they have some potent cannabis and you don’t see any crystals, don’t believe them.

The texture of marijuana is also very important, and also very finicky. Properly cured marijuana should be slightly dried but also still sticky. If your marijuana isn’t sticky, that means it’s probably dried out and will turn to dust easily. But you also don’t want it to be too moist as well. You want it right in that sweet spot: a little dry, and a little sticky.

6. Seeds, Sticks and Stems

Good marijuana will have none of the three S’s mentioned above. It should have very few sticks and stems holding the bud together, and there shouldn’t be any seeds. The thicker the bud, the better.

7. Orange Hairs

When marijuana is well-pollinated and matured, it will grow little orange hairs. That’s the sign of a high quality strain of cannabis. If you see orange hairs, then you know you’re getting the good stuff.

8. Well-Trimmed

This won’t necessarily tell you if marijuana is good or bad. But a well-trimmed bud without extra leaves or stems shows that cannabis was maintained well and whoever grew or sold it takes care of their product.

9. Contaminants

This one’s pretty easy, but if you see something off about your marijuana, don’t smoke it. Make sure to check your cannabis for mold or little bugs before buying. And if you see any thin, white hairs that look like a spider web, that’s probably spider mites. Avoid that as well.

10. Tested Products

Another way to ensure your marijuana is good is to purchase only lab-tested products. This may not always be an option, but if you can find product that’s been certified to contain little to no pesticides and other contaminants, then there’s a pretty good chance that it’s good.

Do you know how to tell good weed from bad weed? We've listed ten ways to help you be able to distinguish between the two.